Post # 191 Book Review “A History of the World in Six Glasses”

November 13, 2013 at 1:01 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 191 Book Review “A History of the World in Six Glasses”

I’ve been wanting to try this for some time and now seemed like the right time for it.  You all know that I like to read, and a lot of what I read furthers my understanding of food and cooking.  I also like books about history, but they have to be very engaging and not just the dry, formulaic books we read in school.  I’ve read a number of them:  Salt, A World Lit Only By Fire, Cod: The Fish That Saved The World, The Story of Sushi, and on the list goes.  Today, I’m going to tell you about a book that takes a unique perspective in talking about world history.

The book is A History of the World in Six Glasses, by Tom Standage.  It’s a well written book and extremely well researched.  You’ve heard me say this before in this blog, when water wasn’t safe, you had to drink what was.  The book talks about that while it tells the history of the world from the Stone Age to today through six drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola.

“Thirst is deadlier than hunger . . . only breathing matters more.”  These opening lines from the introduction set the tone for how serious the subject matter is, but the book takes on a fun and almost charming tone after that.

Beer:  No one knows exactly when beer was first brewed, but by 4000 BCE, it was widespread throughout the known world, and vital to nearly all phases of life, central to social, religious, and economic life.  Most historians agree that beer wasn’t invented so much as it was discovered.  As humans turned from hunter-gatherers to farmers (as such) they found that the grains they were using to cook with, if left unattended for a few days underwent a mysterious transformation and became beer.  They also found that when they drank beer at different stages in its lifecycle, they would become less and more intoxicated.  They also found it safe to drink at any stage.  Through experimentation they refined the process and flavors to what they liked.  One of those experiments might even have led to the development of bread.  Who knew?  Now I’m beginning to understand the phrase “beer is liquid bread.”  I personally do not like beer, but that’s my problem.  Most of the ancients looked at beer as a gift from the gods so the best beer was used in religious ceremonies.

Wine:  Wine was discovered, or invented, about the same time as beer but didn’t reach the same popularity as beer immediately for a couple of reasons.  The first was its scarcity.  For a long time, it was only made in one area of the world (not France) in a mountainous region around modern-day Armenia and Northern Iran.  It had to be shipped long distances for everyone to try it and the scarcity and cost of shipping made its price out of reach for any except the extremely wealthy.  Over time, of course, wine became more accessible as more people demanded it and production increased.  To meet the demand, vineyards became larger and more efficiently run, but they also began selling wine in various stages of its lifecycle.  New wine, or wine that had not reached full maturity was sold to the rank and file citizens.  It had a much harsher flavor.  Aged wine was more expensive and kept for the more elite.  Over time, the age of the wine, the type of grape used, the vineyard, and process became more important in determining the price and desirability of the wine.  Interesting factoid: early in wine’s history, it was considered the best of manners to mix wine with water to cut it.

The book goes on to talk about the impact that each of the drinks has had on history and the course of human development.  It’s definitely worth the read.

Here’s the link to the book at Amazon:

Book 1

This author has also written one called An Edible History of Humanity.  Can’t wait to read it!  Enjoy!


Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.